stress management

The bitter-sweet tech savvy workplace.

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It’s ironic isn’t it, that the very things we’ve developed to make our lives easier, have made them harder, in ways we could never have predicted as technology has evolved. It’s easy to feel like we’re drowning in a sea of connectivity and the pressure to keep up socially and professionally is relentless. 

It’s no surprise, that the theme of this year’s Stress Awareness Week is related to  ‘Workplace stress and automation’. Taking a deeper look at the effects of technology on our working lives, a survey by the International Stress Management Association showed that nearly all of us feel panic when we can’t locate our mobile phones, a frightening number of us check messages and social media in the night, and whilst we’re aware of the additional stress, we find it hard to put our technology away. 

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Yet, we mustn’t be ‘bitter’, the ‘sweetness’ that tech brings to our lives, the doors it opens, the ideas, news and views that it enlightens us with, have propelled our lives and businesses forward at a pace we could never have experienced otherwise. Harnessing that power in the workplace is just as beneficial to business as encouraging staff to switch off and put it away. 

For all the pro’s and cons, the fact remains that we are on a journey, and we need to learn to manage and deal with the stress caused by connectivity. 

In the workplace, the duty falls to managers and HR professionals to openly promote a stress free working environment with very clear work/ life boundaries and support for employees in place. Managers must lead by example and make sure that teams are able to talk openly about stress (a survey by ISMA in 2017 revealed that 94% of people experience work-related stress yet only 32% feel they can speak to their line manager or HR department about it. Read more). 

Here’s our top 3 ways to look after your team’s stress and few tech savvy apps to help them on their way!  

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  1. Get a wellbeing policy in place. A workplace wellbeing policy is important to remind staff that you take their health, wellbeing and happiness seriously. Encouraging staff to take regular breaks, get enough sleep, eat healthily, and exercise are great ways to endorse it (My Fitness Pal, Sleep Score).

  2. Lead by example. It’s OK to turn it off! As management, YOU need to take proper breaks and turn your phone and email off too. If an employee is working, emailing or calling out of hours, why? Make yourself accessible and keep the lines of communication with your team open. Is their stress coming from tech related distractions? (Trello, OFFTIME).

  3. Get social (off line). In and out of work. Downtime with friends and family is key protective factor to mental health and wellbeing, and is proven to reduce stress. Workplace social events or team activities can support this. Encourage mindfulness as it’s proven to increase productivity and emotional wellbeing. (Headspace).

 What policies have you put in place to deal with technology related stress in your workplace? 

Management makeover to improve stress at work.

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Managers have long since had a significant impact on employee well-being and engagement with work. Some are natural born leaders who know and understand their teams and magically seem to get the best out of them.  Others operate in high-stress environments and a maelstrom of chaos in the team.

Yet workplace stress and depression figures are through the roof. Back in 2009, the World Health Organisation predicted that by 2020 depression would be the second most important cause of disability in the world. By  2017, it was already the no.1 cause of disability in the world.

Stress at work that leads to long-term absence, has more than doubled since the 1990s, with an estimated 500,000 suffering from work-related stress in the UK. The chances are that someone in your office is struggling with a mental health issue right now.

Trouble is, dealing with those difficult conversations is not a skill that comes naturally to all of us and the ability of the line manager to handle it in a ‘soft’ way, isn’t something that can be learnt overnight. The bitc.org.uk ‘Engagement and Wellbeing’ report states that only a third of employees received any support to manage workplace stress and that managerial trust is falling, with only 40% of employees believing their bosses acted with integrity. It seems that more managers than not find it easier to ignore those difficult conversations and do nothing at all.

The good news is that there is a proven link between positive manager behaviour and booming business.  Evidence shows that good workplaces have higher productivity, greater employee retention and improved customer satisfaction. Furthermore, a three-year study (Towers Watson 2010) showed that operating margins improved by 4% in organisations with high employee engagement. That’s a significant financial uplift and the onus is on managers to enable a cultural shift that stops sweeping employees’ problems under the office carpet and normalises caring behaviour in the workplace. Employees need to believe that coming to a line manager with a problem isn’t going to mean they’re up for the next round of redundancies or could lose their job.

Recognising the benefits from training to improve your ability to understand issues, proactively solve problems and motivate your team is one of the first steps to changing the culture in your workplace. Even if you’re uncomfortable with those potentially difficult conversations, you can change your outlook and adopt positive traits to make a significant impact on the stress levels of your team.

There are 15 managerial behaviours, identified by the CIPD that can directly impact on employees’ stress at work in a positive way.

  1. Be decisive… do what you say
  2. Avoid speaking about team members behind their backs
  3. Maintain a predictable and even mood
  4. Plan work to realistic and achievable deadlines
  5. Act positively on any constructive criticism given to you
  6. Avoid passing your stress onto employees
  7. Plan ahead to avoid placing short-term demands on employees
  8. Give more positive than negative feedback
  9. Be a problem solver rather than leaving problems for others
  10. Help your team gain better work-life balance
  11. Give clear direction and ensure employees understand their role in delivering outputs
  12. Be open to alternative paths
  13. Resolve issues rather than opting to keep the peace
  14. Address complaints of bullying
  15. Check in with employees to make sure they are ok

If you struggle with any of the above it may be that you’ll benefit from some specific management training to take your team more happily and productively through the year ahead. You could call in help from a company like Cordell Health, that is experienced in helping you help your workforce!

New Years resolutions for business: 10 changes to get the most out of your team

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As we step joyfully into 2018, full of promise and hope for the year ahead, many of us are thinking about the things we’d like to improve about our lives. Often they are personal (eat less, exercise more and sleep A LOT, being mine), and sometimes they are changes that will improve other people’s lives.

2017 saw figures for stress related issues at work at an all time high with the Health and Safety Executive reporting that over 526,000 new workers suffered from stress, depression or anxiety. You might not be running your own business or enterprise but if you’re a line manager you have a chance to make a massive difference to the health and wellbeing of your colleagues in the year ahead. A few simple resolutions for 2018 may help you deliver a healthier and more productive workplace for your organisation.

So, with no further ado, here we give you some inspiration with our New Years resolutions for managers, to help you get the most out of your team. Follow even just one or two of these and YOU will be rewarded with a more productive team as well as an improvement to your working life every day.

1.    Lead by example. Be the kind of manager that celebrates productivity during the working day (rather than after hours), and rewards employees for outputs achieved rather than time spent in the office. You hold the key to the office culture.

2.    Treat people right. Be fair, be kind, and be consistent in your directions and creative in your solutions. Sometimes a little bit of (managerial) flexibility can go a long way.

3.    Listen. Carefully. Take onboard feedback and act positively.

4.    Listen some more. Listen to what is not being said and then think carefully. It’s often what is not being said that sets the alarm bells ringing, and it could be that someone in your team is in need of some support and some Mental Health First Aid.

5.    Be understanding. Your employees’ problems may not be coming from the office, sometimes life just gets in the way. With a bit of understanding and creative thinking you can give them the space and flexibility to heal themselves, and they’ll be back on form much quicker than if you just hope the problem will just go away.

6.    Invest in health & wellbeing. Encourage your team to move their bodies for at least 30 - 60 minutes a day. A walk, a workout in the gym or yoga class, …anything they can manage during the day. They will feel less tired and with those endorphins flowing they’ll be happier and more focused at work.

7.    Invest in education. An inspired and up-skilled team is good for business. Education does not have to be just for the job either; wellbeing education to encourage healthy sleeping, drinking and eating habits can also improve productivity, positivity and loyalty.

8.    Open your door. Encourage your team to come to you without judgment or fear for any kind of problem, take them seriously, address their complaints or just listen to find out what they need and put support in place.

9.    Deal with your stress. Be predictable, calm, positive and realistic. If you’re stressed, practice what you preach, take a walk, breathe and talk to YOUR line manager!

10. Don’t give up! Changing habits or management style isn’t easy. Ride the setbacks and stick at it. Forgive your failures, reward your successes, and take it day by day.

We’d love to hear what your businesses healthy objectives are for 2018? Are they resolutions that you think you can keep?

HELP, I’m distracted! Why presenteeism is a problem, not just at Christmas…

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I sat at my desk this morning and started writing a light-hearted festive blog about workplace productivity in the Christmas season. We’re all partying, eating and drinking, and doing the bare minimum at our desks. I’d only got two paragraphs in, by which time I’d had a call from a friend, looked at some shoes on sale, Google-mapped a venue for a meeting on Friday, paid for a school trip and ordered a new dog bed.  I was certainly not being productive! I was present but absent, and sadly it was nothing to do with having gone out and had a good time.

It occurred to me that this is presenteeism, and it’s a problem that is clearly NOT just something that happens at this time of year!

Presenteeism used to specifically refer to employee productivity that was lessened by coming to work when they were sick and should probably have been at home in bed.  More and more it’s being used to describe the way in which we work and how our productivity is challenged by the way in which we live. We face constant distractions. We can barely have a face-to-face conversation without beeping or buzzing and we struggle to focus even when we’re on our own. We tap or swipe our phone screens an average of 2,617 times a day!  And the constant alerts from watches or emails remind us there’s a bargain to be had or that someone needs something from us. It’s an adrenalin-fuelled pastime that is hard to ignore and is making us stressed and unproductive.

The British Heart Foundation suggests that presenteeism due to stress and issues with mental health could well be costing the UK economy £15.1bn a year and it’s obvious that technology plays a large part in it.

BUT what to do with this tide of technology? You can’t get an entire workforce to turn off their phones, emails and alerts; we’re all adults after all!

I was reminded of a story I heard from someone that worked in a careers office (in the dark ages before mobile phones). They had a phone system that would call you at 10:30am to remind you to stop and take a break. Everyone would put down their pens, walk away from their desks and phones and head to the staff room where they had a tea rota. They’d all have a drink and a chat and after 20 minutes or so head back to their desks, focused and refreshed.

It’s old-fashioned I know, but there’s something wholesome and nourishing about legitimising ‘switching off’ and taking a break! We didn’t have access to work 24 hours a day back then, but I bet they were more productive and happier overall.

Riding the tech wave requires organisations to culturally shift, so that they can thrive on the benefits of technology but care about their employee’s mental health and wellbeing too.

With that in mind (and phone turned off), here are some thoughts for diminishing your company’s tech-related presenteeism in 2018!

1.    Be open. Create a culture in which employees have a safe place to share worries with colleagues or line managers. It might not be work related but if they feel supported they are more likely to perform their best

2.    Organise a review of your workplace policies and help staff understand their individual working style. By opening up the conversation about distractions and presenteeism you will be able to explore with them how to maximise their most productive times of day. This could include different working hours or a period in the day when they acknowledge they would benefit from putting their phones away.

3.    Build a working environment that celebrates a good work/ life balance, where taking work home and answering emails in the evenings is not encouraged.

4.    Time management training with trained staff on how to schedule their day so that there’s a time set aside for social media, prioritising emails or booking a holiday! No business expects employees to have their head down eight hours a day but minimising the distraction or saving it for less-focused hours will maximise output in the day.

5.    Encourage a healthy balanced lifestyle by offering gym memberships, a team sport or a group walk at lunchtimes. Spread awareness on the importance of getting quality sleep, and encourage staff to communicate with their line manager if it’s becoming a problem. Supply fruit and plenty of water.

6.    If you are worried about your teams stress you may need some Mental Health First Aid!

I could definitely benefit from thinking about my productive times of day and making sure I maximise them whilst using the less productive times to get my personal admin and emails done – guilt free!

 Would be great to know what you think? Is there one change you could make in the New Year?

Stress test: Top 10 tips for a happy and productive team

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It’s likely that Stress Awareness Day on 1st November passed many of us by as we ordered our morning coffee or rushed about our daily lives. It’s no surprise, the reality is that more of us are suffering from stress and feeling under pressure than ever before and the ripples spread far and wide.

A third of us are unhappy with our work-life balance, and with mobile devices increasingly blurring the line between employment and family life it’s no wonder we’re all so stressed! What’s worse, this figure is on the rise. It’s a vicious circle where the more time we spend in contact with work, the more we think about it and the more negative the impact it has on our lives.

HSE published the latest figures on 1st November – these show that out of 31.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness, 12.5 were due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression. Health and Safety at work regulations 1999 mean employers have a duty to ‘assess the risk of stress related ill health arising from work activities’ and ‘take measures to control that risk’ (1974 Health Act). So why isn’t more being done?

The law protects us to some extent but talking about mental health in the workplace remains somewhat of a taboo; there is a culture of silence and a reluctance to make it known within the workplace for fear of negative consequences. The BITC/YouGov Mental Health at Work Report 2017 revealed that in 15% of cases where a mental health issue had been disclosed to a line manager, the employee became subject to disciplinary procedures, dismissal or demotion.

It’s not that managers don’t care. The same survey showed that 91% of managers were aware that what they do directly affects the wellbeing of their staff. However, less than a quarter of them had undergone any training in mental health issues and felt underequipped to prevent or deal with any issues should they arise.

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Business needs to wake up to what is really happening here and find a way to address the imbalance. Talking about stress in the workplace and offering mental health training and support for employees is GOOD for business. A happy employee is a productive one: workers whose mental health is taken seriously in the workplace and who enjoy a supportive and open environment are much more productive. This can result in up to £4 in improved efficiency and productivity for every £1 spent on mental health care, according to the Health and Safety Executive. That’s a return on investment that no company can afford to ignore.

As with any health issue, the ideal scenario is not to get ill in the first place; mental health is no different. Managers can put in place simple steps to cultivate support, making employees and their wellbeing central to the business and its growth.  One simple change can have a positive impact, improving staff retention, reducing sickness and ensuring a productive and motivated workforce.

These Top 10 tips are not exhaustive but provide the root of simple and cost-effective systems for stress prevention and a happy and productive team in the workplace. That will help make sure every day is a ‘stress awareness day’.

  • Undertake a stress risk assessment to identify potential causes of stress in the workplace and eliminate or reduce the risk they present. Useful information can be found on the HSE website. If you need any help or advice in undertaking a stress risk assessment contact Cordell Health..
  • Build emotional resilience, encourage staff to go home at a reasonable time and make sure they take their holidays. Discourage emailing outside office hours.
  • Give honest objective feedback and help employees learn from their mistakes
  • Recognise, reward and appreciate achievements
  • Build good support systems in the workplace where working practices and problems are shared. Make sure workloads and priorities are agreed and maintained.
  • Encourage healthy eating and regular physical activity. Provide fresh fruit and water.
  • Organise regular out-of-work activities in which the whole team can take part.  This might include volunteering or supporting a local charity.
  • Create a pleasant work environment, with plenty of natural light and good ventilation as well are shared common spaces.
  • Help employees understand and accept that there are some things they cannot change. Anxiety often arises from trying to change things beyond our control and acceptance is key to overcoming this.
  • Encourage employees to identify areas they find difficult and support them in devising and implementing a plan to tackle these areas.

(Mental Health at Work Report. YouGov 2017)

How do YOU feel about stress in your workplace. What systems are in place to support you or your team?

5 steps to seeing past disability

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#whoknew that disabled people can work too? Sounds shocking, doesn’t it? Of course, they can. Yet according to Gov.uk, less than half disabled people who would like to work are not in employment.

 

Despite often applying for jobs they’re overqualified for, a disabled person can expect to get a stream of rejections day after day.  Employers are sitting with their hands tied behind their backs in fear of getting it wrong, worried about how much it’ll cost, believing that it’ll mean someone is always off sick. It’s easier just to not go there at all. Yet, disabled people make up one of the most loyal and committed workforces out there and it’s time employers opened their eyes and made a change. This untapped resource has a huge role to play and with little more than a desire to change, British business can make a difference today.

Disability awareness training

We know about inequality in the workplace due to sexism and racism, and society has come a long way in enabling us to be able to openly talk about it. Disability is the difference that we don’t yet know how to address. Line managers and human resources are the gatekeepers –get them trained in disability awareness so they have the confidence to make this change and share it with the company. Everyone has a part to play.  #whoknew cordellhealthealth.co.uk/support is a social enterprise offering support through educating employers and helping employers and individuals make adjustments. Or try https://disabilityconfident.campaign.gov.uk

Shout about it

Most disabled people are put off jobs before they’ve even applied. Shout about the diversity in your workplace by making sure your disability policy is in clear site on your website and that the applications process is accessible for all.

Interview the person

Interviewing a disabled person shouldn’t be any different to interviewing anyone else. Don’t talk about the difference. Talk about their ability, the job, the responsibilities, how they would envisage themselves fulfilling the role. See past the label and interview the person. If the person thinks they would need some workplace alterations in order to enable them to do the job this can be organised at a later date.

Call in the Support

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There are loads of places you can go to get support if a disabled person is right for the job. www.gov.uk/access-to-work offers advice and funding at no cost to the employer. A lot of the time changes needn’t cost anything and can be as simple as offering flexible working hours to miss rush hour on public transport or enabling them to work from home. www.disabilityrightsuk.org/access-work  

 

 

Add Value

A diverse workforce is stronger and more creative, the more elements of society it represents, the more views and resources it has to draw on and the better the business’ competitive edge. Not only that, but disabled people are more likely to be engaged and loyal than other employees. After all the best view often comes from the hardest climb….

Do you have diversity in your workplace? It would be great to hear about your experiences of how your colleagues have overcome adversity to fulfil a workplace role.